Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I wanted to write a blog about how grateful I am for two people who have helped shape me into the VO artist I am today. Although there have been MANY people I have looked up to in my journey (and still do), this blog is dedicated to the two people who have affected my career in promo the most.
When I chat with people about what it takes to “break into the voice over industry” inevitably the discussion turns to classes or coaches. You MUST get guidance from someone who is experienced to help you find your vocal footing. And once you feel comfortable with your “read” you have to learn how to audition. And then even after you book your first job, you have to learn how to work in an actual session. There is a difference between giving a killer read in an audition, and giving killer read after read at an actual paid session. You need to be able to take direction, understand the difference between your ABC reads (or “three in a row”), and consistently give the performance that is expected of you based off of what the client heard in your audition. You need to learn so many skills in order to have a successful career as a voice over artist.
But guess what? That process of learning and perfecting your skills never ends. The industry is always changing and the sound that is popular today won’t be popular tomorrow. And what is popular tomorrow won’t be popular next week. You get the idea. Even the most prolific and prodigious of voice over artists has to constantly hone their craft.
I want to take a moment to explain what that means to me. Maybe my story will help you find your own mentors in your own voice over career — whether you’re just beginning or are a seasoned pro.
A little over eight years ago I auditioned as the in-show announcer for The Soup on E! I was hired by one of the executive producers, Edward Boyd, who also directed me the first few years of the show. I was just beginning to transition out of the younger promo read so booking The Soup was a huge deal for me since it was a more “adult” show. I was also really beginning to love promos. Even though I had booked quite a few promos jobs for networks with younger demographics, I wasn’t incredibly experienced with promos for the older demographic, or with the difference between promo and announcing. In-show announcing is a very small world! So even though I gave a read on my audition that Ed connected with, actually producing the “right” read in the actual sessions proved to be a “learning” experience. Ed was incredibly patient with me and really took the time to guide me towards my best read. I learned so much from him. But I think the skill he taught me that has been the most valuable in shaping my read in promo and announcing (because this particular skills transcends both) is to separate each thought. Each sentence must have a different feel that separates it from the one before and the one after. In other words, each line is important in its own right. But Ed really helped me hone in on what that feels like; After all, voice over is muscle memory. You have to feel each emotion in your muscles and then be able to reproduce that feeling in your read consistently. This skill has proved invaluable to me in my promo career and has helped me connect with promo copy for all types of different shows. Since The Soup is ending in a few weeks, I really wanted to share my appreciate and love for Ed for not only giving me a chance when he hired me, but for helping to shape me into the voice over artist I am today.
The second person who really gave me “aha” advice was a producer I work with on The Today show for NBC, Jennifer Kaas. I had the privilege of working for her in person in NY during one of my trips this year. Even though we had previously worked together over ISDN, working with someone in person allows you a kind of collaboration that is more intimate and special. In one of our sessions she said something to me that has really stuck with me and improved my promo read tremendously. She told me when I read in my lower register, I “cut through” better. In promo, there is so much going on visually and aurally (music, on camera talent lines, sound effects) that the key is for the VO to “cut through” all that to reach the audience. Her bit of advice to me was to stay in my lower register because my voice cuts through naturally and connects more. It was a light bulb moment for me and I have been consistently auditioning for promos in my lower register and that read has been connecting with more and more networks/shows. So thanks Jennifer!! You were such a mentor to me on that trip to NY!
I don’t think either of these producers knows how profound their wisdom and guidance has been for me and my evolution as a voice over artist. I adore them both!
It is important to be a sponge in this industry. Know who you are, but take criticism and guidance wherever you can and turn it into something that works for you. It may not always work, so keep that in mind. But always be open to honing your skills and craft. Good luck!